COVID-19 | How We Manage Now – 10 Critical FAQs
03 March 202102 April 2020 | News
Over recent weeks, people and companies everywhere have been called to deal with the impact and uncertainty of COVID-19 unfolding situation. Fortech is no different. Despite the magnitude of the pandemic we are equipped to carry on. Read on for a few insights on how we manage now, to safeguard our team, keep them engaged and continue to support all our clients at the highest standard of agility and productivity. In addition, we invite you to peruse a message from our company to yours and the entire world, signed by our CEO.
From all of us at Fortech, we hope you stay healthy, and know that we are always here for you if you need anything at all.
1. How Do We Manage a Large Scale Remote Working Environment?
At Fortech we have over 16 years’ experience working in distributed teams across many of our key projects. Moreover, cutting edge collaborations tools have long been implemented across the organization and have since been utilized at scale. This allowed us to test and model a practice of remote work, which made the recent company-wide home office migration process a time and energy-efficient one.
As our entire staff shifted to remote work as the new norm, our IT and Security department also stepped in and ran a refresher Security Awareness Training for all our employees and collaborators, aiming to mitigate all security risks associated with such a complex orchestration of efforts and resources.
In addition, they also set up client-to-site VPN solutions based on the SSL VPN technology with multi-factor authentication, the optimal security measure to protect against unauthorized access. We have also upgraded our infrastructure to support the remote work setup for over 1000+ client-to-site VPN simultaneous connections
2. What Infrastructure Do We Have in Place to Support an Extendable Working Environment?
We use an integrated hardware and software solution that gives our employees a reliable and completely secure way to connect to internal business applications and files. Our IT & Security Department has complete control over user access, and each user must have a valid client certificate as well as the username and password to authenticate.
3. What Collaboration Tools and Work Engagement Plans Have We Implemented Across the Organization?
To maintain efficiency and consistency while our team is working from home amid coronavirus concerns is one of our main points of focus. We keep our employees engaged by offering constant updates about the current crises and its effects, by providing advice on how to stay safe and by using surveys to find out what we can improve.
To stay productive while working remotely, our team requires access to the right tools at their fingertips. Our IT & Security Department set up client-to-site VPNs that connect remote users to the corporate network, and the capacity was increased to avoid any issues. We use:
- Microsoft Teams/ Zoom – allows us to communicate via video or voice calls and keep our daily meetings;
- Skype for Business – for small virtual meetings, short video calls or group chats we use SfB;
- Attlasian Tools – our project management tool kit that allows us to assign and track tasks.
4. How Are We Applying Agile Methodology in Collocated Virtual Teams?
Agile software development relies heavily on team members working side-by-side and in continuous, unhindered collaboration. We’ve successfully adapted the standard techniques of agile to remote working after our entire team transitioned to work from home in mid-March. With an established flow (meeting hours, tools used, ground rules of communication, sprint goals), we are ready to overcome any challenges this period might bring.
- For the daily scrums, Fortech’s teams rely on ZOOM, Microsoft Teams, or Skype for Business. We use this time to find out what every team member is doing, what obstacles have come up along the way, and what they are going to do before the next meeting;
- The End-of-sprint retrospectives are held via video calls, and that’s a benefit when it comes to working with virtual teams and being able to maintain adequate and fluid communication;
- We use Skype or Slack to solve any quick questions.
5. How Are Our Leadership and Tech Teams Ensuring Project Risk Management?
Firstly, our leadership and tech teams are in permanent contact with Fortech’s Health Awareness Team to stay constantly up to date on the unfolding of the COVID-19 situation.
Secondly, in support of our market commitment, we have developed, and we are implementing a clear risk management strategy. An internal task force (CEO, Client Executives, Department Managers) was assembled. The team is modeling and implementing various crisis response scenarios.
Finally, we have adjusted our service delivery model to support co-located virtual teams at scale, identified critical staff functions, and ways to ensure operations continuity in the event of a disruptive incident.
6. What Measures Do We Take to Maintain the Delivery Productivity Level?
Our Project Managers and Team Leaders follow a clear guideline adapted to the current COVID-19 situation to make sure that each team remains performant and goal-oriented, while safe and supported. Fortech’s principles on maintaining delivery productivity level at 100% include:
- Request and provide regular progress reporting (we use an internal Project Status Report that allows the documentation of risks, issues, blockers and space for raising questions);
- Address immediately any issue coming from the team;
- Coach through frequent one2ones and constant feedback;
- Monitor team performance and satisfaction (through an internal tool each team member has to update regularly the percentage of the project they have completed);
- Monitor responsiveness and availability;
- Plan at least a bi-weekly project status discussion based on the PSR and take relevant actions.
7. What Do We do to Maintain Teams Motivated, Engaged, and in a High Performing State?
A study conducted by Buffer showed that for 17% of remote workers, the biggest struggle in working from home is communication and/ or collaborating, and 8% find it hard to stay motivated. To avoid such situations and maintain our excellent performing rates, we’ve defined a series of principles to guide us:
- Work relentlessly to build trust by being open, supportive and honest when communicating with our team members;
- Hold one2one (face to face) video calls with your team leaders and other team members as needed and if requested;
- Offer feedback frequently and on the spot, using appropriate channels, ideally through a video call;
- Actively solicit perspectives and viewpoints from all team members to enable and nurture openness to different ideas and approaches to their tasks;
- Over-communicating in this period is better than under-communicating;
- Avoid email ping-pong, know when to opt for a video call. We make sure to get on a Slack/Skype call whenever we need to clarify an issue or task;
8. Are We Processing New Requests? Is Our Sales Process Affected?
Fortech’s sales teams are working at full capacity. Our approach to incoming requests has not been affected, and we pledge to answer all your questions in less than 24 hours. We have adjusted our process to host virtual meetings by using Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams or other tools that allow face-to-face interaction.
Our commitment to the market is that we will do whatever it takes to maintain our level of reliability and professionalism. With a well-structured engagement strategy, we are ready to support and help you with your projects or overcome any challenges you are facing.
9. Are We Able to Do Team Ramp-up in This Period?
Yes. Even during this dynamic, rapidly changing situation, a ramp-up is possible, and we are always available to support your project continuity. We have accumulated robust experience with team ramp-ups and doing it while WFH is no different from doing it while at the office.
We have started remote onboarding for our customers, a process that we are used to at Fortech, mainly because we have four regional offices in Romania, and frequently members from different cities were part of the same project team.
In addition, we strictly follow a checklist for the onboarding process, and we implement a buddy system for each new team member. This peer system is an onboarding and knowledge sharing method in which an existing employee guides the new colleague through the first few weeks or months. Also, the team leader schedules recurrent sync meetings to avoid communication issues and to share ideas, discuss work, and receive important updates.
10. What Happens if a Team Member in a Critical Role is Affected?
With a team of 800 engineers across four cities, we have a risk management plan in place which includes multiple scenarios that deal with leaves, identifies the most critical positions, and establishes continuity plans.
- The first step is to review the project plan with the remaining team members;
- We assess and prioritize the open tasks in the sprint and prepare for the future;
- Our quick response includes the reassignment of duties to the remaining team members if they can take the extra tasks or assign a temporary replacement;
- At the same time, our recruitment mechanism is set in place to find a new member for our team;
- Facilitate Knowledge Transfer.